house of God.
In troublous times the people went to Bethel to ask counsel of God ( Judges 20:18 Judges 20:31 ; 21:2 ). Here the ark of the covenant was kept for a long time under the care of Phinehas, the grandson of Aaron ( 20:26-28 ). Here also Samuel held in rotation his court of justice ( 1 Samuel 7:16 ). It was included in Israel after the kingdom was divided, and it became one of the seats of the worship of the golden calf ( 1 Kings 12:28-33 ; 13:1 ). Hence the prophet Hosea ( Hosea 4:15 ; 5:8 ; Hosea 10:5 Hosea 10:8 ) calls it in contempt Beth-aven, i.e., "house of idols." Bethel remained an abode of priests even after the kingdom of Israel was desolated by the king of Assyria ( 2 Kings 17:28 2 Kings 17:29 ). At length all traces of the idolatries were extirpated by Josiah, king of Judah ( 2 Kings 23:15-18 ); and the place was still in existence after the Captivity ( Ezra 2:28 ; Nehemiah 7:32 ). It has been identified with the ruins of Beitin, a small village amid extensive ruins some 9 miles south of Shiloh.
(the house of God ) well known city and holy place of central Palestine, about 12 mlles north of Jerusalem. If we are to accept the precise definition of ( Genesis 12:8 ) the name of Bethel would appear to have existed at this spot even before the arrival of Abram in Canaan. ( Genesis 12:8 ; Genesis 13:3 Genesis 13:4 ) Bethel was the scene of Jacobs vision. ( Genesis 28:11-19 ; 31:13 ) Jacob lived there. ( Genesis 35:1-8 ) The original name was Luz. ( Judges 1:22 Judges 1:23 ) After the conquest Bethel is frequently heard of. In the troubled times when there was no king in Israel, it was to Bethel that the people went up in their distress to ask counsel of God. ( Judges 20:18 Judges 20:26 Judges 20:31 ; 21:2 ) Authorized Version, "house of God." Here was the ark of the covenant. ( Judges 20:26-28 ; 21:4 ) Later it is named as one of the holy cities to which Samuel went on circuit. ( 1 Samuel 7:16 ) Here Jeroboab placed one of the two calves of gold. Toward the end of Jeroboams life Bethel fell into the hands of Judah. ( 2 Chronicles 13:19 ) Elijah visited Bethel, and we hear of "sons of the prophets" as resident there. ( 2 Kings 2:2 2 Kings 2:3 ) But after the destruction of Baal worship by Jehu Bethel comes once more into view. ( 2 Kings 10:29 ) After the desolation of the northern kingdom by the king of Assyria, Bethel still remained an abode of priests. ( 2 Kings 17:27 2 Kings 17:28 ) In later times Bethel is named only once under the scarcely-altered name of Beitin . Its ruins still lie on the righthand side of the road from Jerusalem to Nablus.
[E] indicates this entry was also found in Easton's Bible Dictionary
beth'-el (beth-'el; Baithel and oikos theou, literally, "house of God"):
(1) A town near the place where Abraham halted and offered sacrifice on his way south from Shechem.
1. Identification and Description:
It lay West of Ai (Genesis 12:8). It is named as on the northern border of Benjamin (the southern of Ephraim, Joshua 16:2), at the top of the ascent from the Jordan valley by way of Ai (Joshua 18:13). It lay South of Shiloh (Judges 21:19). Eusebius, Onomasticon places it 12 Roman miles from Jerusalem, on the road to Neapolis. It is represented by the modern Beitin, a village of some 400 inhabitants, which stands on a knoll East of the road to Nablus. There are four springs which yield supplies of good water. In ancient times these were supplemented by a reservoir hewn in the rock South of the town. The surrounding country is bleak and barren, the hills being marked by a succession of stony terraces, which may have suggested the form of the ladder in Jacob's famous dream.
2. The Sanctuary:
The town was originally called Luz (Genesis 28:19, etc.). When Jacob came hither on his way to Paddan-aram we are told that he lighted upon "the place" (Genesis 28:11. Hebrew). The Hebrew maqom, like the cognate Arabic maqam, denotes a sacred place or sanctuary. The maqom was doubtless that at which Abraham had sacrificed, East of the town. In the morning Jacob set up "for a pillar" the stone which had served as his pillow (Genesis 28:18; see PILLAR, matstsebhah), poured oil upon it and called the name of the place Bethel, "house of God"; that is, of God whose epiphany was for him associated with the pillar. This spot became a center of great interest, lending growing importance to the town. In process of time the name Luz disappeared, giving place to that of the adjoining sanctuary, town and sanctuary being identified. Jacob revisited the place on his return from Paddan-aram; here Deborah, Rebekah's nurse, died and was buried under "the oak" (Genesis 35:6). Probably on rising ground East of Bethel Abraham and Lot stood to view the uninviting highlands and the rich lands of the Jordan valley (Genesis 13:9).
Bethel was a royal city of the Canaanites (Joshua 12:16). It appears to have been captured by Joshua (8:7), and it was allotted to Benjamin (Joshua 18:22). In Judges 1:22 it is represented as held by Canaanites, from whom the house of Joseph took it by treachery (compare 1 Chronicles 7:28). Hither the ark was brought from Gilgal (Judges 2:1, Septuagint). Israel came to Bethel to consult the Divine oracle (Judges 20:18), and it became an important center of worship (1 Samuel 10:3). The home of the prophetess Deborah was not far off (Judges 4:5). Samuel visited Bethel on circuit, judging Israel (1 Samuel 7:16).
With the disruption of the kingdom came Bethel's greatest period of splendor and significance. To counteract the influence of Jerusalem as the national religious center Jeroboam embarked on the policy which won for him the unenviable reputation of having "made Israel to sin." Here he erected a temple, set up an image, the golden calf, and established an imposing ritual. It became the royal sanctuary and the religious center of his kingdom (1 Kings 12:29; Amos 7:13). He placed in Bethel the priests of the high places which he had made (1 Kings 12:32). To Bethel came the man of God from Judah who pronounced doom against Jeroboam (1 Kings 13), and who, having been seduced from duty by an aged prophet in Bethel, was slain by a lion. According to the prophets Amos and Hosea the splendid idolatries of Bethel were accompanied by terrible moral and religious degradation. Against the place they launched the most scathing denunciations, declaring the vengeance such things must entail (Amos 3:14; 4:4; 5:11 m; Amos 9:1; Hosea 4:15; 5:8; 10:5,8,15). With the latter the name Bethel gives place in mockery to Beth-aven. Bethel shared in the downfall of Samaria wrought by the Assyrians; and according to an old tradition, Shalmaneser possessed himself of the golden calf (compare Jeremiah 48:13). The priest, sent by the Assyrians to teach the people whom they had settled in the land how to serve Yahweh, dwelt in Bethel (2 Kings 17:28). King Josiah completed the demolition of the sanctuary at Bethel, destroying all the instruments of idolatry, and harr ying the tombs of the idolaters. The monument of the man of God from Judah he allowed to stand (2 Kings 23:4,25). The men of Bethel were among those who returned from Babylon with Zerubbabel (Ezra 2:28; Nehemiah 7:32), and it is mentioned as reoccupied by the Benjamites (Nehemiah 11:31). Zechariah (Zechariah 7:2) records the sending of certain men from Jerusalem in the 4th year of King Darius to inquire regarding particular religious practices. Bethel was one of the towns fortified by Bacchides in the time of the Maccabees (1 Macc 9:50; Ant, XIII, i, 3). It is named again as a small town which, along with Ephraim, was taken by Vespasian as he approached Jerusalem (BJ, IV, ix, 9).
(2) A city in Judah which in 1 Samuel 30:27 is called Bethel; in Joshua 19:4 Bethul; and in 1 Chronicles 4:30 Bethuel. The site has not been identified. In Joshua 15:30 Septuagint gives Baithel in Judah, where the Hebrew has Kecil--probably a scribal error.
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